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World on the edgefrom World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmentaland Economic Collapse, by Lester R. Brown 2011 Earth Policy Institute We need an economy for the twenty-first century, onethat is in sync with the earth and its natural support sys-tems, not one that is destroying them. The fossil fuel-based, automobile-centered, throwaway economy thatevolved in western industrial societies is no longer aviable model—not for the countries that shaped it or forthose that are emulating them. In short, we need to builda new economy, one powered with carbon-free sources ofenergy—wind, solar, and geothermal—one that has adiversified transport system and that reuses and recycleseverything.
With Plan B we can change course and move onto a path of sustainable progress, but it will take a massivemobilization—at wartime speed. This plan, or some-thing very similar to it, is our only hope.
The Plan B goals—stabilizing climate, stabilizing pop- ulation, eradicating poverty, and restoring the economy'snatural support systems—are mutually dependent. Allare essential to feeding the world's people. It is unlikelythat we can reach any one goal without reaching the oth-ers. Moving the global economy off the decline-and-col-lapse path depends on reaching all four goals.
The key to restructuring the economy is to get the market to tell the truth through full-cost pricing. For WORLD ON THE EDGE energy, this means putting a tax on carbon to reflect the coal, of deforestation, of overpumping aquifers, and of full cost of burning fossil fuels and offsetting it with a overfishing, then we can begin to create a rational econo- reduction in the tax on income.
my. If we can create an honest market, then market forces If the world is to move onto a sustainable path, we will rapidly restructure the world energy economy. Phas- need economists who will calculate indirect costs and ing in full-cost pricing will quickly reduce oil and coal work with political leaders to incorporate them into mar- use. Suddenly wind, solar, and geothermal will become ket prices by restructuring taxes. This will require help much cheaper than climate-disrupting fossil fuels.
from other disciplines, including ecology, meteorology, We are economic decisionmakers, whether as corpo- agronomy, hydrology, and demography. Full-cost pricing rate planners, government policymakers, investment that will create an honest market is essential to building bankers, or consumers. And we rely on the market for an economy that can sustain civilization and progress.
price signals to guide our behavior. But if the market Some 2,500 economists, including nine Nobel Prize gives us bad information, we make bad decisions, and winners in economics, have endorsed the concept of tax that is exactly what has been happening.
shifts. Harvard economics professor and former chair- We are being blindsided by a faulty accounting sys- man of George W. Bush's Council of Economic Advisors tem, one that will lead to bankruptcy. As Øystein Dahle, N. Gregory Mankiw wrote in Fortune magazine: "Cut- former Vice President of Exxon for Norway and the ting income taxes while increasing gasoline taxes would North Sea, has observed: "Socialism collapsed because it lead to more rapid economic growth, less traffic conges- did not allow the market to tell the economic truth. Cap- tion, safer roads, and reduced risk of global warming— italism may collapse because it does not allow the market all without jeopardizing long-term fiscal solvency. This to tell the ecological truth."3 may be the closest thing to a free lunch that economics If we leave costs off the books, we risk bankruptcy. A decade ago, a phenomenally successful company named The failure of the market to reflect total costs can Enron was frequently on the covers of business maga- readily be seen with gasoline. The most detailed analysis zines. It was, at one point, the seventh most valuable cor- available of gasoline's indirect costs is by the Internation- poration in the United States. But when some investors al Center for Technology Assessment. When added began raising questions, Enron's books were audited by together, the many indirect costs to society—including outside accountants. Their audit showed that Enron was climate change, oil industry tax breaks, military protec- bankrupt—worthless. Its stock that had been trading for tion of the oil supply, oil industry subsidies, oil spills, and over $90 a share was suddenly trading for pennies.4 treatment of auto exhaust-related respiratory illnesses— Enron had devised some ingenious techniques for total roughly $12 per gallon. If this external cost is added leaving costs off the books. We are doing exactly the to the roughly $3 per gallon price of gasoline in the Unit- same thing, but on a global scale. If we continue with this ed States, gas would cost $15 a gallon. These are real practice, we too will face bankruptcy.
costs. Someone bears them. If not us, our children.2 Another major flaw in our market economy is that it If we can get the market to tell the truth, to have mar- neither recognizes nor respects sustainable yield limits of ket prices that reflect the full cost of burning gasoline or natural systems. Consider, for example, the overpumping WORLD ON THE EDGE of aquifers. Once there is evidence that a water table is well below world market prices have greatly reduced or starting to fall, the first step should be to ban the drilling eliminated their motor fuel subsidies because of the of new wells. If the water table continues to fall, then heavy fiscal cost. Among those reducing subsidies are water should be priced at a rate that will reduce its use China, Indonesia, and Nigeria.7 and stabilize the aquifer. Otherwise, there is a "race to A world facing economically disruptive climate the bottom" as wells are drilled ever deeper. When the change can no longer justify subsidies to expand the aquifer is depleted, the water-based food bubble will burning of coal and oil. A phaseout of oil consumption burst, reducing harvests and driving up food prices.
subsidies over the next decade would cut oil use by 4.7 Or consider deforestation. Proper incentives, such as a million barrels per day in 2020. Eliminating all fossil fuel stumpage tax for each tree cut, would automatically shift consumption subsidies by 2020 would cut global carbon harvesting from clearcutting to selective cutting, taking emissions by nearly 6 percent and reduce government only the mature trees and protecting the forests.
Not only do we distort reality when we omit costs Shifting subsidies to the development of climate- associated with burning fossil fuels from their prices, but benign energy sources such as wind, solar, and geother- governments actually subsidize their use, distorting real- mal power will help stabilize the earth's climate. Moving ity even further. Worldwide, subsidies that encourage the subsidies from road construction to high-speed intercity production and use of fossil fuels add up to roughly $500 rail construction could increase mobility, reduce travel billion per year, compared with less than $50 billion for costs, and lower carbon emissions.
renewable energy, including wind, solar, and biofuels. In Closely related to the need to restructure the economy 2009, fossil fuel consumption subsidies included $147 bil- is the need to redefine security. One of our legacies from lion for oil, $134 billion for natural gas, and $31 billion the last century, which was dominated by two world wars for coal. Governments are shelling out nearly $1.4 billion and the cold war, is a sense of security that is defined per day to further destabilize the earth's climate.5 almost exclusively in military terms. It so dominates Iran, with a fossil fuel subsidy of $66 billion, is a lead- Washington thinking that the U.S. foreign affairs budget er in promoting gasoline use by pricing it at one fifth its of $701 billion in 2009 consisted of $661 billion for mili- market price. Following Iran on the list of countries that tary purposes and $40 billion for foreign assistance and heavily subsidize fossil fuel use are Russia, Saudi Arabia, diplomatic programs.9 Douglas Alexander, former U.K. Secretary of State for Carbon emissions could be cut in scores of countries International Development, put it well in 2007: "In the by simply eliminating fossil fuel subsidies. Some coun- 20th century a country's might was too often measured in tries are already doing this. Belgium, France, and Japan what they could destroy. In the 21st century strength have phased out all subsidies for coal. Countries in the should be measured by what we can build together."10 European Union may phase out coal subsidies entirely by The good news is that in the United States the concept 2014. President Obama has announced plans to start of redefining security is now permeating not only various phasing out fossil fuel subsidies in 2011. As oil prices independent think tanks but the Pentagon itself. A num- have climbed, a number of countries that held fuel prices ber of studies have looked at threats to U.S. interests WORLD ON THE EDGE posed by climate change, population growth, water short- evolved into a national tidal wave of grassroots opposi- ages, and food shortages—key trends that contribute to tion from environmental, health, farm, and community political instability and lead to social collapse.11 organizations. Despite a heavily funded industry cam- Although security is starting to be redefined in a con- paign to promote "clean coal," the American public is ceptual sense, we have not redefined it in fiscal terms.
turning against coal. In a national poll that asked which The United States still has a huge military budget, com- electricity source people would prefer, only 3 percent mitted to developing and manufacturing technologically chose coal. The Sierra Club, which has kept a tally of sophisticated and costly weapon systems. Since there is proposed coal-fired power plants and their fates since no other heavily armed superpower, the United States is 2000, reports that 139 plants in the United States have essentially in an arms race with itself. What if the next been defeated or abandoned.14 war is fought in cyberspace or with terrorist insurgents? An early turning point in the coal war came in June Vast investments in conventional weapons systems will be 2007, when Florida's Public Service Commission refused of limited use.
to license a huge $5.7-billion, 1,960-megawatt coal plant Given the enormity of the antiquated military budget, because the utility proposing it could not prove that no one can argue that we do not have the resources to res- building the plant would be cheaper than investing in cue civilization. The far-flung U.S. military establishment, conservation, efficiency, or renewable energy sources.
including hundreds of military bases scattered around the This point, frequently made by lawyers from Earthjus- world, will not save civilization. It belongs to another era.
tice, a nonprofit environmental legal group, combined We can most effectively achieve our security goals by help- with widely expressed public opposition to any more ing to expand food production, by filling the family plan- coal-fired power plants in Florida, led to the quiet with- ning gap, by building wind farms and solar power plants, drawal of four other coal plant proposals in the state.15 and by building schools and clinics.12 Coal's future also suffered as Wall Street, pressured by During the years when governments and the media the Rainforest Action Network, turned its back on the were focused on preparing for the 2009 Copenhagen cli- industry. In early February 2008, investment banks Morgan mate negotiations, a powerful movement opposing the Stanley, Citi, and J.P. Morgan Chase announced that any construction of new coal-fired power plants was emerg- future lending for coal-fired power would be contingent on ing in the United States, largely below the radar screen.
the utilities demonstrating that the plants would be eco- The principal reason that environmental groups, both nomically viable with the higher costs associated with national and local, are opposing coal plants is that they future federal restrictions on carbon emissions. Later that are the primary driver of climate change. In addition, month, Bank of America announced it would follow suit.16 emissions from coal plants are responsible for 13,200 U.S.
One of the unresolved questions haunting the coal deaths annually—a number that dwarfs the U.S. lives lost sector is what to do with the coal ash—the remnant of in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.13 burning coal—that is accumulating in 194 landfills and Over the last few years the U.S. coal industry has suf- 161 holding ponds in 47 states. This ash is not an easy fered one setback after another. What began as a few material to dispose of since it is laced with arsenic, lead, local ripples of resistance to coal-fired power quickly mercury, and other toxic materials. The industry's dirty WORLD ON THE EDGE secret came into full public view just before Christmas and the owner of the West Virginia mine where 29 miners 2008 when a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) coal ash died in 2010, lost all funding from three of the banks.20 pond containment wall in eastern Tennessee collapsed, More and more utilities are beginning to recognize releasing a billion gallons of toxic brew.17 that coal is not a viable long-term option. TVA, for Surprising through it may seem, the industry does not example, announced in August 2010 that it was planning have a plan for safely disposing of the 130 million tons of to close 9 of its 59 coal-generating units. Duke Energy, ash produced each year, enough to fill 1 million railroad another major southeastern utility, followed with an cars. The spill of toxic coal ash in Tennessee, which is announcement that it was considering the closure of costing the TVA $1.2 billion to clean up, drove another seven coal-fired units in North and South Carolina alone.
nail into the lid of the coal industry coffin.18 Progress Energy, also in the Carolinas, is planning to An August 2010 joint study by the Environmental close 11 units at four sites. In Pennsylvania, Exelon Power Integrity Project, Earthjustice, and the Sierra Club is preparing to close four coal units at two sites. And Xcel reported that 39 coal ash dump sites in 21 states have Energy, the dominant utility in Colorado, announced it contaminated local drinking water or surface water with was closing seven coal units.21 arsenic, lead, and other heavy metals at levels that exceed These five are examples of a growing number of U.S.
federal safe drinking water standards. This is in addition utilities that are closing coal-fired power plants, replacing to 98 coal ash sites that are polluting local water supplies them with natural gas, wind, solar, biomass, and effi- that were already identified by the U.S. Environmental ciency gains. In an analysis of the future of coal, Wood Protection Agency (EPA). In response to these and other Mackenzie, a leading energy consulting and research threats, new regulations are in the making to require an firm, sees these closings as a harbinger of things to come upgrade of the management of coal ash storage facilities for the coal industry.22 so as to avoid contaminating local groundwater supplies.
The chairman of the powerful U.S. Federal Energy In addition, EPA is issuing more stringent regulations on Regulatory Commission, Jon Wellinghoff, observed in coal plant emissions, including sulfur dioxide and nitro- early 2009 that the United States may no longer need any gen oxides. The goal is to reduce chronic respiratory ill- additional coal plants. Regulators, investment banks, and nesses, such as asthma in children, and the deaths caused political leaders are now beginning to see what has been by coal-fired power plant emissions.19 obvious for some time to climate scientists such as James Another coal industry practice, the blasting off of Hansen: that it makes no sense to build coal-fired power mountain tops with explosives to get at coal seams, is plants only to have to bulldoze them in a few years.23 under fire. In August 2010, the Rainforest Action Net- Given the huge potential for reducing electricity use in work announced that several leading U.S. investment the United States, closing coal plants may be much easier banks, including Bank of America, J.P. Morgan, Citi, than it appears. If the efficiency level of the other 49 Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo, had ceased lending to states were raised to that of New York, the most energy- companies involved in mountaintop removal coal mining.
efficient state, the energy saved would be sufficient to Massey Energy, a large coal mining company notorious close 80 percent of the country's coal-fired power plants.
for its violations of environmental and safety regulations The remaining plants could be shut down by turning to WORLD ON THE EDGE renewable energy—wind farms, solar thermal power bilize climate, it will also eliminate much of the air pol- plants, solar cells, and geothermal power and heat.24 lution that we know today. The idea of a pollution-free As noted earlier, the U.S. transition from coal to environment is difficult for us even to imagine, simply renewables is under way. Between 2007 and 2010, U.S.
because none of us has ever known an energy economy coal use dropped 8 percent. During the same period, and that was not highly polluting. Working in coal mines will despite the recession, 300 new wind farms came online, be history. Black lung disease will eventually disappear.
adding some 21,000 megawatts of wind-generating So too will "code red" alerts warning us to avoid strenu- ous exercise because of dangerous levels of air pollution.
The bottom line is that the United States currently And, finally, in contrast to investments in oil fields and has, in effect, a near de facto moratorium on the licens- coal mines, where depletion and abandonment are ing of new coal-fired power plants. Several environmen- inevitable, the new energy sources are inexhaustible. While tal groups, including the Sierra Club and Greenpeace, are wind turbines, solar cells, and solar thermal systems will now starting to focus on closing existing coal plants. The all need repair and occasional replacement, investing in movement is also going international, as campaigns are these new energy sources means investing in energy sys- now under way in several countries to prevent the con- tems that can last forever. These wells will not go dry.
struction of new coal plants and to close existing ones.26 Although some of the prospects look good for moving With the likelihood that few, if any, new coal-fired away from coal, timing is key. Can we close coal-fired power plants will be approved in the United States, this power plants fast enough to save the Greenland ice sheet? moratorium sends a message to the world. Denmark and To me, saving Greenland is both a metaphor and a pre- New Zealand have already banned new coal-fired power condition for saving civilization. If its ice sheet melts, sea plants. Hungary is on the verge of closing its one remain- level will rise 23 feet. Hundreds of coastal cities will be ing coal plant. Ontario Province, where 39 percent of abandoned. The rice-growing river deltas of Asia will be Canadians live, plans to phase out coal entirely by 2014.
under water. And there will be hundreds of millions of Scotland announced in September 2010 that it plans to rising-sea refugees. The word that comes to mind is chaos.
get 80 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2020 If we cannot mobilize to save the Greenland ice sheet, we and 100 percent by 2025, backing out coal entirely. Other probably cannot save civilization as we know it.28 countries are likely to join this effort to cut carbon emis- Similarly, can we eradicate poverty and fill the family sions. Even China, which was building one new coal planning gap fast enough to help countries escape the plant a week, is surging ahead with renewable energy and demographic trap? Can we halt the growth in the number now leads the world in new wind farm installations.
of failing states before our global civilization begins to These and other developments suggest that the Plan B goal of cutting carbon emissions 80 percent by 2020 may The overarching question is, Can we change fast be much more attainable than many would have thought enough? When thinking about the enormous need for a few years ago.28 social change as we attempt to move the world economy The restructuring of the energy economy will not onto a sustainable path, I find it useful to look at three only dramatically drop carbon emissions, helping to sta- models of social change. One is the Pearl Harbor model, WORLD ON THE EDGE where a dramatic event fundamentally changed how ping points or cross key thresholds. Once that happens, Americans thought and behaved. The second model is one change comes rapidly and often unpredictably. One of where a society reaches a tipping point on a particular the best known U.S. tipping points is the growing opposi- issue often after an extended period of gradual change in tion to smoking that took place during the last half of thinking and attitudes. This I call the Berlin Wall model.
the twentieth century. This movement was fueled by a The third is the sandwich model of social change, where steady flow of information on the health-damaging there is a dedicated grassroots movement pushing for effects of smoking, a process that began with the Surgeon change that is strongly supported by political leadership.
General's first report in 1964 on smoking and health. The The surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on tipping point came when this information flow finally December 7, 1941, was a dramatic wakeup call. It totally overcame the heavily funded disinformation campaign of changed how Americans thought about the war. If the the tobacco industry.30 American people had been asked on December 6th Although many Americans are confused by the disin- whether the country should enter World War II, probably formation campaign on climate change, which is funded 95 percent would have said no. By Monday morning, by the oil and coal industries, there are signs that the December 8th, 95 percent would likely have said yes.
United States may be moving toward a tipping point on When scientists are asked to identify a possible "Pearl climate, much as it did on tobacco in the 1990s. The oil Harbor" scenario on the climate front, they frequently and coal companies are using some of the same disinfor- point to the possible breakup of the West Antarctic ice mation tactics that the tobacco industry used in trying to sheet. Sizable blocks of it have been breaking off for more convince the public that there was no link between smok- than a decade already, but far larger blocks could break ing and health.
off, sliding into the ocean. Sea level could rise a frighten- The sandwich model of social change is in many ways ing 2 or 3 feet within a matter of years. Unfortunately, if the most attractive one, largely because of its potential we reach this point it may be too late to cut carbon emis- for rapid change, as with the U.S. civil rights movement in sions fast enough to save the remainder of the West the 1960s. Strong steps by EPA to enforce existing laws Antarctic ice sheet. By then we might be over the edge.29 that limit toxic pollutants from coal-fired power plants, The Berlin Wall model is of interest because the wall's for instance, are making coal much less attractive. So too dismantling in November 1989 was a visual manifesta- do the regulations on managing coal ash storage and rul- tion of a much more fundamental social change. At some ings against mountaintop removal. This, combined with point, Eastern Europeans, buoyed by changes in Moscow, the powerful grassroots campaign forcing utilities to seek had rejected the great "socialist experiment" with its one- the least cost option, is spelling the end of coal.31 party political system and centrally planned economy.
Of the three models of social change, relying on the Although it was not anticipated, Eastern Europe had an Pearl Harbor model for change is by far the riskiest, essentially bloodless revolution, one that changed the because by the time a society-changing catastrophic event form of government in every country in the region. It had occurs for climate change, it may be too late. The Berlin reached a tipping point.
Wall model works, despite the lack of government sup- Many social changes occur when societies reach tip- port, but it does take time. The ideal situation for rapid, WORLD ON THE EDGE historic progress occurs when mounting grassroots pres- pleasure was banned. Suddenly people were recycling and sure for change merges with a national leadership that is planting victory gardens. Strategic goods—including tires, gasoline, fuel oil, and sugar—were rationed begin- Whenever I begin to feel overwhelmed by the scale and ning in 1942. Yet 1942 witnessed the greatest expansion urgency of the changes we need to make, I reread the eco- of industrial output in the nation's history—all for mili- nomic history of U.S. involvement in World War II tary use. Wartime aircraft needs were enormous. They because it is such an inspiring study in rapid mobiliza- included not only fighters, bombers, and reconnaissance tion. Initially, the United States resisted involvement in planes, but also the troop and cargo transports needed to the war and responded only after it was directly attacked fight a war on distant fronts. From the beginning of 1942 at Pearl Harbor. But respond it did. After an all-out com- through 1944, the United States far exceeded the initial mitment, the U.S. engagement helped turn the tide of goal of 60,000 planes, turning out a staggering 229,600 war, leading the Allied Forces to victory within three- aircraft, a fleet so vast it is hard even today to visualize it.
and-a-half years.32 Equally impressive, by the end of the war more than In his State of the Union address on January 6, 1942, 5,000 ships were added to the 1,000 or so that made up one month after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President the American Merchant Fleet in 1939.36 Franklin D. Roosevelt announced the country's arms pro- In her book No Ordinary Time, Doris Kearns Good- duction goals. The United States, he said, was planning to win describes how various firms converted. A sparkplug produce 45,000 tanks, 60,000 planes, and several thousand factory switched to the production of machine guns. A ships. He added, "Let no man say it cannot be done."33 manufacturer of stoves produced lifeboats. A merry-go- No one had ever seen such huge arms production round factory made gun mounts; a toy company turned numbers. Public skepticism abounded. But Roosevelt and out compasses; a corset manufacturer produced grenade his colleagues realized that the world's largest concentra- belts; and a pinball machine plant made armor-piercing tion of industrial power was in the U.S. automobile industry. Even during the Depression, the United States In retrospect, the speed of this conversion from a was producing 3 million or more cars a year.34 peacetime to a wartime economy is stunning. The har- After his State of the Union address, Roosevelt met nessing of U.S. industrial power tipped the scales deci- with auto industry leaders, indicating that the country sively toward the Allied Forces, reversing the tide of war.
would rely heavily on them to reach these arms produc- Germany and Japan, already fully extended, could not tion goals. Initially they expected to continue making counter this effort. British Prime Minister Winston cars and simply add on the production of armaments.
Churchill often quoted his foreign secretary, Sir Edward What they did not yet know was that the sale of new cars Grey: "The United States is like a giant boiler. Once the would soon be banned. From early February 1942 fire is lighted under it, there is no limit to the power it can through the end of 1944, nearly three years, essentially no cars were produced in the United States.35 The point is that it did not take decades to restructure In addition to a ban on the sale of new cars, residen- the U.S. industrial economy. It did not take years. It was tial and highway construction was halted, and driving for done in a matter of months. If we could restructure the WORLD ON THE EDGE U.S. industrial economy in months, then we can restruc- Table 13–1. Plan B Budget: Additional Annual Expendi- ture the world energy economy during this decade.
tures Needed to Meet Social Goals and Restore the Earth With numerous U.S. automobile assembly lines cur- rently idled, it would be a relatively simple matter to retool some of them to produce wind turbines, as the (billion dollars) Ford Motor Company did in World War II with B-24 Basic Social Goals
bombers, helping the world to quickly harness its vast Universal primary education wind energy resources. This would help the world see Eradication of adult illiteracy that the economy can be restructured quickly, profitably, School lunch programs and in a way that enhances global security.39 Aid to women, infants, preschool children The world now has the technologies and financial Reproductive health and family planning resources to stabilize climate, eradicate poverty, stabilize Universal basic health care population, restore the economy's natural support sys-tems, and, above all, restore hope. The United States, the wealthiest society that has ever existed, has the resourcesand leadership to lead this effort.
Earth Restoration Goals
We can calculate roughly the costs of the changes needed to move our twenty-first century civilization off Protecting topsoil on cropland the decline-and-collapse path and onto a path that will Restoring rangelands sustain civilization. What we cannot calculate is the cost Restoring fisheries of not adopting Plan B. How do you put a price tag on Stabilizing water tables social collapse and the massive die-off that it invariably Protecting biological diversity As noted in earlier chapters, the external funding needed to eradicate poverty and stabilize population Grand Total
requires an additional expenditure of $75 billion per year.
A poverty eradication effort that is not accompanied byan earth restoration effort is doomed to fail. Protecting U.S. Military Budget
topsoil, reforesting the earth, restoring oceanic fisheries, Plan B budget as share of this and other needed measures will cost an estimated $110billion in additional expenditures per year. Combining World Military Budget
both social goals and earth restoration goals into a Plan Plan B budget as share of this B budget yields an additional annual expenditure of $185billion. (See Table 13–1.) This is the new defense budget, Source: Military from SIPRI; other data at www.earth-policy.org.
the one that addresses the most serious threats to bothnational and global security. It is equal to 12 percent of WORLD ON THE EDGE global military expenditures and 28 percent of U.S. mili- changes, as the grassroots campaign against coal-fired tary expenditures.40 power plants is doing. Saving civilization is not a specta- Unfortunately, the United States continues to focus its fiscal resources on building an ever-stronger military, Inform yourself. Read about the issues. Share this largely ignoring the threats posed by continuing environ- book with friends. Pick an issue that's meaningful to you, mental deterioration, poverty, and population growth. Its such as tax restructuring to create an honest market, 2009 military expenditures accounted for 43 percent of phasing out coal-fired power plants, or developing a the global total of $1,522 billion. Other leading spenders world class-recycling system in your community. Or join included China ($100 billion), France ($64 billion), the a group that is working to provide family planning serv- United Kingdom ($58 billion), and Russia ($53 billion).41 ices to the 215 million women who want to plan their For less than $200 billion of additional funding per families but lack the means to do so. You might want to year worldwide, we can get rid of hunger, illiteracy, dis- organize a small group of like-minded individuals to ease, and poverty, and we can restore the earth's soils, work on an issue that is of mutual concern. You can forests, and fisheries. We can build a global community begin by talking with others to help select an issue to where the basic needs of all people are satisfied—a world that will allow us to think of ourselves as civilized.
Once your group is informed and has a clearly defined As a general matter, the benchmark of political lead- goal, ask to meet with your elected representatives on the ership will be whether leaders succeed in shifting taxes city council or the state or national legislature. Write or from work to environmentally destructive activities. It is e-mail your elected representatives about the need to tax shifting, not additional appropriations, that is the key restructure taxes and eliminate fossil fuel subsidies.
to restructuring the energy economy in order to stabilize Remind them that leaving environmental costs off the books may offer a sense of prosperity in the short run, Just as the forces of decline can reinforce each other, but it leads to collapse in the long run.
so too can the forces of progress. For example, efficiency During World War II, the military draft asked millions gains that lower oil dependence also reduce carbon emis- of young men to risk the ultimate sacrifice. But we are sions and air pollution. Eradicating poverty helps stabi- called on only to be politically active and to make lize population. Reforestation sequesters carbon, lifestyle changes. During World War II, President Roo- increases aquifer recharge, and reduces soil erosion. Once sevelt frequently asked Americans to adjust their we get enough trends headed in the right direction, they lifestyles and Americans responded, working together for will reinforce each other.
a common goal. What contributions can we each make One of the questions I hear most frequently is, What today, in time, money, or reduced consumption, to help can I do? People often expect me to suggest lifestyle save civilization? changes, such as recycling newspapers or changing light The choice is ours—yours and mine. We can stay with bulbs. These are essential, but they are not nearly business as usual and preside over an economy that con- enough. Restructuring the global economy means tinues to destroy its natural support systems until it becoming politically active, working for the needed destroys itself, or we can be the generation that changes WORLD ON THE EDGE direction, moving the world onto a path of sustainedprogress. The choice will be made by our generation, butit will affect life on earth for all generations to come.
Data, endnotes, and additional resources can be found onEarth Policy's Web site, at www.earth-policy.org. More information on the topics covered in World on theEdge can be found in the references listed here. The fulltext of the book, along with extensive endnotes,datasets, and new releases, is available on the EarthPolicy Institute Web site at www.earth-policy.org. Herman E. Daly, "Economics in a Full World,"Scientific American, vol. 293, no. 3 (September 2005),pp. 100–07.
Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Failor Succeed (New York: Penguin Group, 2005).
Global Footprint Network, WWF, and ZoologicalSociety of London, Living Planet Report 2010 (Gland,Switzerland: WWF, October 2010).
Mathis Wackernagel et al., "Tracking the EcologicalOvershoot of the Human Economy," Proceedings of theNational Academy of Sciences, vol. 99, no. 14 (9 July2002), pp. 9,266–71.
Ronald A. Wright, A Short History of Progress(New York: Carroll and Graf Publishers, 2005).
A Clinical Plan for MDMA (Ecstasy) in the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Partnering with the FDA Rick Doblin, Ph.D. The following article was originally published in the April-June 2002 special MDMA issue of theJournal of Psychoactive Drugs (www.hafci.org). The article presents the rationale behind MAPS'efforts to sponsor research in Spain, the US and Israel investigating MDMA's potential in treatingpatients suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This document is the clearest expres-sion to date of MAPS' role as a membership-based non-profit pharmaceutical company, as distinctfrom MAPS' other research and educational functions. We are reprinting this article in order toexplain in detail to MAPS' membership the vision and strategy animating MAPS' MDMA/PTSD researchprojects and associated fundraising efforts. A mission statement in a way, this article should help toexplain why MAPS has chosen the ambitious goal of developing MDMA into an FDA-approved prescrip-tion medicine in the treatment of PTSD. Since this article was written, the Spain MDMA/PTSD re-search project has been halted (hopefully temporarily) due to political pressure, and it has takenlonger than expected to obtain DEA and IRB permission to start the US MDMA/PTSD project.